Staying active is important year-round, but cold weather may affect your exercise routine. Making a few simple changes can get you back on track.
People with type 2 diabetes already know the importance of regular exercise. First, it helps to manage your blood glucose levels better by enabling your cells to become more receptive to insulin. It also helps you maintain or lose weight, which can lead to better glucose control.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week. This could look like 20 to 25 minutes daily with 2 days of resistance training. Daily exercise can include walking, deep cleaning, bike riding, or dancing.
The resistance portion can include arm curls with light weights, pushups, abdominal exercises, squats, lunges, yoga, and Pilates. You can split this time into small exercise bites throughout your day (such as 10 minutes at a time), or you can take a long hike on the weekend and focus on work during the week.
With the weather getting colder, your regular exercise routine might look a little different. Here are some tips from a family nurse practitioner on how to stay active in the colder winter months.
The hardest part of exercising outdoors in the colder weather is getting out the front door. Once you get moving, it only gets easier as you start moving and warming up.
Remember: You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great!
Watch the weather regularly where you live. If there is a time of day when the weather conditions are more favorable outdoors, schedule your activities at those times. It’s likely warmest in the afternoon hours when the sun is shining.
The weather is also different on hills and mountains and near bodies of water. If there is a big storm or heavy rain, put your safety first and stay indoors that day.
Setting out your clothes, shoes, and water the night before can help you change your clothes and go, especially if you exercise in the morning. Plus, the faster you change your clothes, the warmer you stay once you leave your bed.
Some people even choose to sleep in their gym clothes so all they have to do when they wake up is put on their shoes and go.
Visit outdoor landmarks, hike, or walk in your neighborhood to keep outdoor exercise exciting. By doing this, you can experience different inclines, declines, curves, and steps that can add healthy diversity to your routine.
If you have extreme weather where you live, head to the nearest gym. Climate-controlled rooms with music or a magazine can make your daily 25 minutes fly by. The cup holders and tablet stands are incredibly convenient, too!
You can avoid extreme outdoor weather and the gym by using a variety of websites and apps that offer at-home exercise guidance.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdowns, working out at home has become much more accessible. You’ll find free workout videos on YouTube or by doing a quick Google search.
If you can’t find motivation for formal exercise, try doing some household chores.
Vacuuming, sweeping, and mopping all count toward physical activity. You could also bring items up and down the stairs one at a time. You can store items upstairs that you frequently need to bring downstairs, requiring you to make extra trips. Plus, your home will also be sparkling clean!
When it’s cold outside, your extremities get cold first. Peripheral neuropathy is common in people with type 2 diabetes, which includes a loss of regular sensation in your feet or toes. Colder temperatures can worsen this condition.
Because of this, it’s important to wear socks that fit appropriately. They shouldn’t squeeze too tightly or be too loose and slide around. You may want to look for diabetes-friendly socks that wick away moisture and stretch in the right places. Ask a healthcare professional if wearing compression socks during exercise is right for you, too.
Invest in high quality shoes with appropriate cushioning, arch support, and an ideal fit. Shoes designed for movement are a must when exercising outdoors with type 2 diabetes. A good shoe can help you have a more effective workout and less pain and soreness afterward.
Don’t know where to start? Google “running store” and your zip code. The staff at your local running store can help you find a great athletic shoe.
You’ll need to layer your clothing when exercising outdoors in the colder months. You want the most layering around your trunk to insulate your core’s heat.
Clothing with half zippers is convenient because you can easily control your temperature. If you’re pushing yourself while exercising, the general rule is to wear one layer fewer than you’d wear during regular activities.
Regardless of the colder weather, eating around exercise when you live with type 2 diabetes can be confusing. It’s important to check your blood sugar before exercising, particularly if you take insulin.
You may need to eat a small snack if your blood glucose level is below 100 mg/dL. Try eating something containing 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates, such as 2 tablespoons of raisins or 1/2 cup of fruit juice. You can also take a glucose tablet so your blood sugar doesn’t drop too low while exercising, which can be serious.
It’s also important to check your blood glucose level after physical activity to see how exercising affects you. Be sure to talk with your healthcare professional about what is best for you.
Colder weather can make it harder to get outside and get moving. But it’s still important to stick to an exercise routine throughout the fall and winter months to help you effectively manage diabetes. A few simple adjustments can make it easier to get some steps in — outdoors, at a gym, or from the comfort of your home.
Medically reviewed on November 30, 2022
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